Children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) improve dramatically when treated with essential fatty acids, according to a new British study.
DCD (also known as dyspraxia) is a syndrome involving clumsiness and delays in walking and other motor milestones. Many children with DCD also exhibit speech, learning, and behavioral problems, and the syndrome often overlaps with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism.
Alexandra Richardson and Paul Montgomery enrolled 117 children between the ages of 5 and 12 in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of essential fatty acid supplementation on DCD. All of the children in the study exhibited symptoms consistent with the disorder.
Half of the children received supplements of essential fatty acids for the entire six months of the study. The remaining children took a placebo (olive oil) for the first three months of the study, and then received the fatty acid supplements for the next three months. The fatty acid supplements used during active treatment contained 80 percent fish oil and 20 percent evening primrose oil, providing high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid.
No significant improvements in motor coordination occurred in either the placebo or the active-treatment group. However, the researchers say, the group taking fatty acids made more than nine months' worth of progress in reading during the first three months of treatment, compared to only three months of progress for the untreated group. In spelling, the treated group made six months' worth of progress, while the untreated group made less than two months' worth, exacerbating their delay.
Moreover, ADHD-related symptoms dropped significantly in the group taking fatty acids, but remained virtually unchanged in the placebo group. At the beginning of the study, about one-third of the children had symptoms suggestive of ADHD, but half of the symptomatic children taking fatty acids improved so much that they no longer appeared to have ADHD. Richardson and Montgomery say the improvement seen in these subjects was comparable to that reported in studies of Ritalin.
When the children who initially received a placebo began taking the active capsules, they made equally strong academic and cognitive gains, while the children kept on the supplements continued their improvement.
Essential fatty acids play an integral role in the development and health of the brain and eyes, and research links shortages or imbalances of these nutrients to increases in depression, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and aggression (see related articles, Crime Times, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 1, Page 1 and Crime Times, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 2, Page 1).
"The Oxford-Durham Study: a randomized controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder," Alexandra J. Richardson and Paul Montgomery, Pediatrics, Vol. 115, No. 5, May 2005, 1360-66. Address: Alexandra J. Richardson, University Laboratory of Physiology, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PT, United Kingdom, email@example.com.